Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

green olive tapenade tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This is a recipe in my Almond book. I prepared this tapenade for each of the book signings I went to, and it was very popular. And now that it’s the official start to summer, I share this recipe with you. Salty, nutty, and seriously addictive, this tapenade is a perfect summer appetizer, spooned over bread or crostini. It’s also a great condiment, sprinkled over pizzas, salads or grilled fish. If you can, enjoy it with a glass of dry rosé for a heavenly pairing.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade
from Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted
2 cups pitted green olives
3 anchovies in oil, drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a coarse paste. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Roasted Sea Bass with Olivada and Tomatoes

Roasted Sea Bass with Olivada and Tomatoes

When it’s summertime, I usually have a jar of olivada in the refrigerator. It’s a briny mixture of olives, pine nuts and garlic – perfect for the heat when we crave salt. Its flavors are sharpest when the olivada is freshly made, and we enjoy it simply slathered on bread or crostini with a chilled glass of rosé. The longer the olivada sits in the refrigerator, its flavors mellow and soften, losing some of its pungency.  Then I will toss it with pasta or sprinkle it in salads or over pizza. It’s also a handy garnish for meats and fish. I used the last bit of our latest batch of olivada on these sea bass filets. The salty olives and crunchy pine nuts were a perfect accompaniment to the flaky olive oil roasted fish filets and sweet tomatoes.

Roasted Sea Bass with Olivada and Tomatoes 

Halibut or swordfish may be substituted for the sea bass. Serves 4.

4 one-inch thick sea bass filets, about 2 pounds
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup olivada
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Fresh parsley or pea tendrils as garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Arrange fish filets in one layer in a baking dish. Scatter the tomatoes around the filets. Drizzle fish and tomatoes with olive oil, turning the filets to coat. Spread the olivada over the tops of the filets. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pepper and a little salt (the olivada will also add salt). Bake in oven until fish is just cooked through, 25 to 30  minutes. Remove from oven. Serve hot garnished with parsley.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

~ Mixed Greens, Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes, Cured Olives ~

Shrimp and feta cheese make a perfect couple. The sharp salty cheese is a perfect complement to the briny sweet shrimp. I like to combine these two friends in rice or orzo dishes. I also enjoy baking them in a gratin with tomatoes and olives, drizzled with ouzo – which was my original intention for dinner tonight. However, time got the best of me, and for a super quick fix I tossed the shrimp in this salad instead. What would have been a simple green salad graciously accommodated sautéed shrimp and chunks of feta, transforming itself into a light and fresh main course. As for the ouzo, it was hardly bypassed, but turned into an apertif to launch our dinner. A very acceptable compromise, indeed.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

I also added red corn kernels to the salad, because I had them – and they looked so pretty with the shrimp. Serves 4.

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk all of the ingredients except the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Set aside.

For the salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 medium shrimp, shelled with tails in tact, deveined
8 cups mixed greens, such as red oak, bibb, arugula
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1/2 red pepper, seeded, membranes removed, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
16 black olives (brine cured or kalamata)
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in one layer, without overcrowding the pan. Cook, turning once, until bright pink on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Cool.
Combine the greens, tomatoes, red pepper and onion together in a large bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup vinaigrette over the greens and toss to coat. Divide among plates. Scatter olives and feta over the salad. Arrange shrimp on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serve with bread or pita.



~ Olivada ~

Got heat? Try this recipe for Olivada. When the weather is bleeping hot outside, and it’s too stifling to move, this salty, briny, more-ish concoction hits the spot.  Similar to a tapenade but much more simple, the star of this recipe is olives – 3 kinds, in fact.  I choose a variety of olives to balance their intensity and flavor and blitz them with toasted pinenuts and garlic. The flavors are sharp, inky, salty and addictive. While you may not have the energy to move in this heat, this recipe promises to get your taste buds dancing.


Make a double batch to keep on hand in the refrigerator for easy use. Serve with baguette slices or crostini. Add spoonfuls to pasta dishes and salads, or sprinkle over pizza and roasted vegetables. Makes about 2 cups.

1 cup oil-cured olives, about 5 ounces, pitted
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, about 4 ounces
1 cup pitted green olives, such as Cavelstrano, about 4 ounces
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted golden
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop to desired consistency. Do not over process or the olivada will become a paste. Transfer to a glass jar or container with a lid. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to let the flavors develop. The olivada will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (The flavors will diminish over time.)

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad

~ Fattoush Salad ~

I don’t know about you, but I think I ate a month’s worth of meat over the weekend. With July 4th falling nicely on a Monday, it meant a 3 day weekend was entirely devoted to barbecues. Our house, friends’ houses, the beach: all locations involved a fire and platters of smoked and grilled ribs, steak, chicken, salmon. Now it’s time for a little break.  To begin this short week, I will invoke a brief barbecue time-out. Dinner tonight will be light, fresh and vegetarian – a Fattoush salad.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern garden salad with pita bread. Day old pita is toasted, crumbled and tossed with greens in a vinaigrette, adding texture and substance to the salad, while the dressing softens the bread. Extra Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, feta, mint and sumac (a dried Middle Eastern spice with tart lemony notes) make this salad special and addictively good.  When the weather is warm, this is a perfect easy meal and a nice break from the grill – at least for a day.

Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
2 large pita breads
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arugula leaves
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, leaves torn in pieces
1 small bunch Italian parlsey leaves
1 small bunch  fresh cilantro leaves
1 small bunch  fresh mint leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Mix all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, together in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified.

Prepare salad:
Preheat oven broiler. Brush pita bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Cut each pita circle in 6 triangles.  Toast in oven, turning once, until crisp and light golden. Remove from heat and cool.  Break into pieces.
Toss the pita pieces with the arugula, romaine, parsley, cilantro and mint in a large bowl. Scatter the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta over the salad. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to combine. Add additional vinaigrette to taste and toss again.  Serve garnished with extra feta.

Pasta Provençal with Basil, Sweet Pepper, Tomatoes and Olives

Provencal Pasta Salad

When the weather is hot and sticky, no one wants to cook. At this time it’s nice to have a few recipes on hand for easy, light, flavorful meals that reflect the season and little heat. Pasta Provençal does just that. It takes advantage of late summer’s bounty of vegetables without being too complicated. While this recipe calls for sweet peppers, tomatoes and basil, feel free to experiment with grilled eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash. The beauty of this recipe is that it is fresh and unfussy, perfect for a warm and sultry summer evening.

Pasta Provençal with Basil, Sweet Pepper, Tomatoes and Olives

Serve with a green salad and cold rosé wine.
Serves 4-6.

1 pound farfalle
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, ribs removed, cut in matchsticks
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted, halved
1 fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 bunch, about 1/2 cup, fresh basil leaves, shredded

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Pour pasta into a large serving bowl.  Toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Add red pepper, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and garlic. Toss to combine. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add cheese and basil, and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra grated cheese.

More Salt, Please

More Salt, Please

Not to repeat myself, but once again we are experiencing a heatwave (100 F.)  One of the nicer aspects of our house is that it has lovely floor-to-ceiling glass windows and skylights – everywhere.  Coming from the dark of Scandinavia this was a huge plus.  Lots of light and sunshine all the time, California-style.  Well, right now I feel as though I am living in a microwave.  And suddenly, shady rooms, cooler temperatures and even cloudy skiesseem very appealing.

When it gets this hot I crave salt.  In any form.  In fact, if there were a salt tablet lying about I would consider sucking it.  Foods I survive on in this heat are olives, sliced tomato with sea salt, more olives, the occasional potato chip and more olives.  I keep a bowl of sea salt out on the kitchen counter and every time I pass the bowl I grab a flake or two and pop them in my mouth.   My favorite sea salt is Maldon, an English sea salt that has a wonderful mellow flavor and packs the right salty punch.

This olivada recipe I share with you is a long time favorite that I have made for many years.  You can try fiddling with the combination of olives to your taste*. I use three kinds, and have adapted them as we have moved from country to country and available ingredients have varied.  It is something that can be prepared and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.  After the fourth day (if there is any left) toss the left-overs with freshly cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella for a delicious room-temperature pasta salad.


Makes about 3 cups

1 can or jar pitted green olives, drained
1 can or jar pitted black olives, drained
1 jar Provençal-style olives, pitted (these are the very black, wrinkled olives, often tossed with herbes de provence.)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted golden brown
2-3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place all of the ingredients in bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until well chopped.
(Try not to over-mix or the olivada will be too mushy.)
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least one hour.
Serve with sliced baguette or crostini.
Olivada will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*As you experiment with different olives, adjust for a mixture of mild, sharp, bitter and salt to give an overall balanced flavor to the olivada.